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Week 1 Cavalcade: College Football’s Big Problem//

COW CI

Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault … it would’ve been better, but Sark treated me like a slave in his office and I just couldn’t write for him anymore. 

”You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry!” … Now that we’re in a concussion-awareness age when one play and one hit could mean the end of a career, and considering all the pressure a major college football head coach is under to make sure a slew of 18-to-23-year-old doorknobs don’t jump off of balconies, remain eligible in the classroom, and play like pros on the field with limited practice time compared to the NFLers, yeah, a college football head coach probably isn’t doing his job correctly if he doesn’t come across as a complete and utter dillhole to his players at least 84% of the time. 

Nate Silver projected that the next person who wonders if Florida State now sucks has a 139% chance of being a moron … I’m all squishy with excitement about the new playoff, too, but will everyone PLEASE STOP WONDERING WHAT EVERY MICROSECOND MEANS IN TERMS OF PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS. Look, four teams from the Power 5 conferences are going to make the four-team playoff. If you go unbeaten and win the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 or SEC championship, you’re going to get in. If you finish with one-loss and win a Power 5 conference title, you’re a mortal lock unless that loss was to someone sad. Two losses or more, unless you’re in the SEC, good morrow my good man. There. Those are your playoff implications no matter what anyone else in your conference does. Now go have a Fresca. 

”What is this? You’re wearing the shirt of the band you’re going to see? Don’t be that guy.” … I’ve perfected the art of watching games and channel surfing on my phone’s SlingBox app – and texting, and tweeting, and doing radio shows – while on a 20-mile bike ride in a desperate attempt to stave off the Football Season 15. Saturday morning was my one shot to get out before sitting in front of a slew of various screens for 48 straight hours, and I focused mostly on UCLA-Virginia before really getting into Navy-Ohio State. Along came a rider in full head-to-toe Buckeye gear with a bike helmet sporting the stickers along with a scarlet Ohio State bicycle jersey complete with the matching gray shorts. He wasn’t wearing headphones and he didn’t appear to have any devices on his bike. 

It’s against the rules for anyone to ask a man what’s in his wallet, his computer’s cache, or his pants, and it’s also not right for one man to tell another man how he should root for his favorite team. However, if you’re going to be that guy who adores Ohio State football so much that you’re going to dress like Buckeye Superfan, DVR, schmeVR – Saturday afternoon was what you waited every day for since Tajh Boyd finished tap-dancing on your defense. How are you possibly able to do anything else but watch the opening game of the year as it’s happening? 

”I’m not against half naked girls – not as often as I’d like to be.” … About ten minutes into the Texas A&M-South Carolina game, the name Kenny Hill morphed into Benny Hill. For the rest of his career, I demand that Yakity Sax be the music for every Kenny Hill highlight. However, I thought it to be poor form to repeatedly slap Steve Spurrier on top of his head after the win. 

And no matter what happens, Karl Rove will deny that the team passing around the trophy actually won until he’s gets the final numbers on Ohio State … Imagine if MSNBC had the exclusive rights to be the only network televising Election Night 2016. Now imagine if MSNBC controlled about 85% of all the access and coverage of the process leading up to the election, including the primaries, the debates, the conventions and all of the candidates’ appearances and speeches. Now imagine if MSNBC had a massive financial investment and interest in Hillary Clinton, to go along with having most of the control of the message, the medium, and the access to information in terms of covering other candidates and parties. Now imagine that during the debates, aired exclusively on MSNBC, there were commercial breaks with ads for Hillary’s campaign, and during the broadcast, the moderator reminded you of future Hillary appearances all while a scroll/crawl was going at the bottom of the screen with almost all of the news about the Democrats and items pertaining to the party. 

Now, imagine if the one network that aired the College Football Playoff and the national title game was also in deep, deep, deep, deep, deep with the best conference and the top teams in a sport that determines a tournament field based solely on judgment and perception.

One thing became extremely apparent in the first week of the 2014 season – too many are going to fall back on a lazy and erroneous narrative that a four-team college football playoff will all of a sudden make things easier and cleaner when the opposite is potentially true. 

At least with the BCS, a third of the formula was based on hard numbers and data, and now, even with the new playoff, it’s not possible for a team to earn its way in the same way college basketball teams can. Now it’s 100% ALL about opinion. 

It’s all about whatever the 13 playoff committee members think and believe, it’s even more of a beauty contest than ever before. That means perception and packaging are everything, and ESPN is selling the sizzle along with the steak. 

Considering the SEC is the best college football conference in college football, watching SEC games is unavoidable, which means you have to watch ESPN’s coverage on the SEC Network, which means you’re going to be bludgeoned by SEC propaganda. 

That means if you’re a Utah State fan, you weren’t just competing with Tennessee in Knoxville, but also a broadcast that was geared towards an SEC slant. 

That means if you were a Wisconsin fan watching the game against LSU on ESPN, you sat through a ceaseless array of promotions and ads pumping up the SEC Network and how great it and the league apparently are. 

That means that even if you were watching Texas A&M play South Carolina in an SEC vs. SEC battle, you were inundated with “this is what it’s all about” and “the atmosphere is special” and “this is as good as it gets” type of comments which only furthered the brand. 

And it could all backfire in a huge way, at least theoretically, in terms of whether or not the right four teams are in the playoff. 

Remember, with the College Football Playoff committee job simply to be to pick the four teams it thinks are best, it’s in no way out of the realm of possibility that the top four in college football this year are all in the SEC. Even if they really and truly are, considering the backlash from all the other fan bases and from a skeptical media, good luck trying to sell America on an inaugural four-team playoff with Alabama, Georgia, Auburn and Texas A&M – for example – even if all are worthy and even if all of their losses end up coming against each other. 

Can’t happen? 

If a committee decided on who the best four teams were at the end of the 2011 college football regular season, unbeaten LSU and one-loss Alabama – to LSU – would’ve been the top two seeds. In practicality, Oklahoma State would’ve been in along with Oregon, however, 2011 Arkansas had two losses – at Alabama and at LSU. There would’ve been a very, very reasonable fight for the SEC to get in three teams, and it could easily happen this year if the politics of the playoff weren’t in the equation.

But I digress. 

If Week One was any indication, this whole ESPN/SEC marriage coming at the exact same time a playoff is kicking in puts college football in a tough spot. If there’s a question mark between a two teams for one or two of the playoff openings, even if the committee is representative of all the different interests in college football, what’s going to happen if the tie goes to the SEC?

He actually stinks for about 58 minutes, but Tessitore and Spears carried things until the show went into the prevent with just under two minutes to play … I want to rip. I need to rip. But fair is fair – Tim Tebow might sound like a 12-year-old girl, but he’s a terrific talking head desk analyst. He’s engaging, he has a point, and he’s stunningly insightful for the role he has to play. He’d be even better if he didn’t have to spend half the pregame show poking Finebaum with a stick to make sure he’s still breathing. 

The Big Ten Network is testing whether or not the league should expand and add University College Dublin to help open a new market … The Big Ten likes to talk about its reach, but this is a bit much. Too lazy to do any real research, I’ll just say that no conference has ever played two games in the same college football weekend from a further distance than Penn State vs. UCF in Dublin, Ireland, the night after Rutgers beat Washington State in Seattle 4,518 miles away. 

Keeping with SEC tradition, started by Bear Bryant, of marrying college football with Finnish trance … Part 1 would’ve been better, but Kenny Hill drove right down the field and took my crowd right out of the column even though – stunningly – the oonce-oonce-oonce of “Sandstorm” didn’t have its desired effect.

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
The big things that really, really mattered from Week 1 …

10. Georgia appears to have “it”
Last year, Florida State came out and destroyed Pitt on a national stage, setting the tone for the rest of the year and announcing its arrival as a team ready to do something special. In 2012, Alabama ripped Michigan to shreds 41-14 in Arlington. This year, Georgia looked the part starting in the second quarter with one big Todd Gurley kickoff return vs. Clemson. With a swarming defense, an NFL-caliber running back, a superstar defensive coordinator in Jeremy Pruitt, and health – finally – for at least one week, Georgia looked the part. We’ll see if it’s all for real in two weeks vs. …

9. South Carolina will be fine
There’s a reason why you’re supposed to schedule FCS teams to start the season. Give credit to South Carolina for not truly taking it easy in the opener since the 2007 game against a mediocre Louisiana-Lafayette team, but Texas A&M was razor-sharp and it showed. The Gamecocks are really, really good, but they looked like a team in need of a game or two of seasoning. Run the table, make the playoff – the loss to the Aggies wasn’t a deathblow. That’s easier said than done, but don’t be stunned if the Gamecock defense rebounds in a big way, looks great against East Carolina, and then takes control of the East with a win over the Dawgs.

8. Talent matters
Every once in a while, having a different type of system and the right players can pull off an upset or two, but in the end, either you have the talent or you don’t. Ohio State might have struggled a bit and didn’t quite look right against Navy, but when it was time to turn it on, talent won out against a team without a player that could crack the Buckeye two-deep. On a bigger scale, Wisconsin was great against LSU until the Tiger coaching staff realized that Bucky didn’t have a wide receiver who could play a lick. Wisconsin was good and had the game in control, but LSU’s talent and athletes took over and blew past for the win. Navy is never going to be able to recruit at a high level, but let this be a wake-up call for the Badgers after losing four straight big bowl games and gagging away the 2014 opener – if you want to play with the big boys, you need more talented ones on both sides of the ball.

7. Concussions and Ash
Sometimes, the world is telling you it’s time to do something else with your life. It’s sad when a player is having so many problems with concussions, and it stinks for David Ash and the Longhorns that he suffered one against North Texas after having issues last year, but it’s a major positive that college football is better at dealing with them now. Five years ago, would Ash be playing against BYU this week? It’s a new era, and teams and coaches have to prepare that commonplace hits could result in losing a key player here and there, if not for good. Everyone is going to have to adjust – and again, it’s a good thing for the health of the players.

6. Chris Petersen vs. Steve Sarkisian
It all changes if USC loses to Stanford, but at least for one week, after all the drama and all of the controversy, Steve Sarkisian is winning the battle. While his USC team throttled Fresno State, the defending Mountain West champion, Washington couldn’t do much of anything against a mediocre Hawaii team that’ll be lucky to come up with a few wins. It’s a long season and the two coaching hires will be judged differently at the end of the year, but Round 1 goes to the Trojans.

5. All the offseason controversy
Remember when there was talk about unionization? How about the crab legs problem and the Notre Dame academic issues? The NCAA power discussion and the new world order with the big conferences? No one cares anymore. As soon as the ball was kicked off in the Texas A&M-South Carolina game, it was all about everything on the field. Much is always made in the offseason about various issues and controversies, but once the games start, everyone forgets. That’s not a good thing.

4. Playoff excitement is working
I rip on the idea that everyone is trying to analyze and overthink all of the playoff implications, and the system has its massive flaws, but people can at least grasp the idea of four teams in a tournament. Before, it was all about who could make the final two, but now there’s more hope for the power conference teams. All that’s happening is one extra game added to the post-season mix, but it’s done its job of generating a big buzz that’s only going to grow as the season goes on. Fans never really got the BCS because it wasn’t a playoff. Now it seems like college football has entered the modern age, even if the final four is based on judging.

3. College football’s start
Starting a week before the NFL continues to be perfect. The U.S. Open is fun, but it’s not football. Fantasy owners paid attention to the final preseason games, but those mostly had scrubs and backups. With some really good matchups and a few thrillers, college football grabbed everyone’s attention last weekend and start out with a wonderful splash. This week will be all about the NFL as the fall rhythm kicks in, but college football figured it out, carved out the last week of August, and the games did the rest.

2. Neutral site games
Bowl games and conference championships are for neutral sites – play the big early games on the campuses. While the fans showed up in Houston for LSU-Wisconsin, how much more energy would there have been if this was in Baton Rouge or at Camp Randall? Florida State-Oklahoma had a big bowl feel in Jerry World, but what if the defending national champs came to Stillwater? Playing in the bigger stadium in Baltimore might have been sound financially, but Ohio State-Navy didn’t sell out. How amazing would it have been if the big, bad Buckeyes had to play in the intimacy of the 34,000-seat Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium? College football regular season games should be played on campuses – the game is about the atmosphere and the history. Playing in a professional stadium – especially an indoor one – makes no sense on a late August Saturday.

1. Really, throw out Week 1 
It’s easy to make big, sweeping assumptions from one week, but remember, there’s no college football preseason and the players don’t get nearly the same practice time the pros do – they’re not polished yet. Don’t freak out about Florida State, Ohio State, UCLA or Alabama – coaches are still trying to see what they’ve got. Mid-September is when the teams should start to sharpen up and start to have all the right players in the correct spots. If the Seminoles struggle against Clemson in a few weeks, and if Alabama doesn’t look great against Florida on September 20th, then it’s time to reevaluate. But for now, relax.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world 1) Overrated: 10-of-26 passing for 126 yards and a score in a 17-16 win over Hawaii … Underrated: Cyler Myles
2) Overrated: Winston’s 28-yard touchdown run … Underrated: Winston’s throw to Rashad Greene for a 50-yard score
3) Overrated: Mike Davis’s injury … Underrated: Dylan Thompson throwing for 366 yards and four touchdowns
4) Overrated: NFL games on days other than Sunday … Underrated: College football games on days other than Saturday
5) Overrated: Miami dressing like Oregon vs. Louisville … Underrated: Oregon’s white home uniform

“If it were me, I’d bet everything. But that’s me. I’m an aggressive gambler. Mr. Vegas. Come on. Go for it. Go for it. Yes, yes, there we go. I’m in.” … With Idaho-Florida postponed, I’ll happily take an even first week. This is the week you’re going to become filthy, stinking rich .. So Far: SU 4-0, ATS 2-2

1) Arizona -7 over UTSA
2) Missouri -6 over Toledo
3) Florida -38 over Eastern Michigan
4) Michigan +5.5 over Notre Dame
5) Texas -3 over BYU

Sorry if this column sucked, I wasn’t my fault … it would’ve been better and would’ve received more press, but I apparently denied access to the Miami Herald beat reporter and the paper missed it losing to Bethune-Cookman.